President takes sick leave amid crisis
KIEV, Ukraine (AP):
UKRAINE'S EMBATTLED president is taking sick leave, his office said Thursday, a surprise development that left unclear how efforts to resolve the country's political crisis would move forward. Protesters have been calling for his resignation for two months.
The 63-year-old Viktor Yanukovych has an acute respiratory illness and a high fever, a statement on the presidential website said. There was no indication of how long he might be on leave or whether he would be able to do any work. He wasn't known to have any previous health issues.
Yanukovych is still in charge of the country, spokesman Andriy Lysenko told The Associated Press. Under Ukraine's constitution, the president can't transfer his powers to anyone, he added.
The announcement that Yanukovych was taking sick leave prompted sceptical reactions and even the suggestion that it was a ruse to take him out of power - as in the attempted coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.
"I don't remember official statements on Viktor Yanukovych's colds. But I remember well, when on Aug. 19, 1991, the vice president of the USSR, Gennady Yanayev, announced the serious illness of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev," political commentator Vitaly Portnikov wrote on his Facebook page.